Being in the park after hours is a misdemeanor
, even if you are sitting on a park bench and doing nothing wrong.
If you look at Section 1-04 of the NYC park regulations
, you can see that it's pretty much a catchall statute. If they want to find something to hook you on, they likely can.
These offenses can be handled one of two ways -- either by an administrative hearing with the Environmental Control Board, a civil proceeding -- or as a misdemeanor in Criminal Court. The Desk Appearance Ticket will tell you where you have to appear.
If prosecuted criminally, all but one subsection is a class B misdmeanor. Those have a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Section 1-04(b)(1)(i) is a more serious offense and involves defacing or destroying park property, which it would seem you were not doing. Just for the record, however, that would ba an A misdemeanor which would have a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $15K.
Now that I may have scared you to death, what is virtually certain to happen when you show up for your court date is that you will be offered a criminal violation such as a trespass or a disorderly conduct, and, if you don't want to fight the charges and wish to dispose of it on the same day, you could plead guilty to the violation
A violation is like the criminal court equivalent of a traffic ticket, and is something less than a crime. You'd end up with a small fine or some community service and the record of the violation would seal themselves in a year so that you could say accurately whenever it was necessary that you have never been convicted of a crime and/or have no criminal record. (Though you might have to disclose it for certain purposes to government agencies, if relevant).
Strictly speaking, unless you want to risk the 90 days and go to trial on the misdemeanor, you can get by here without a lawyer. If you want to dispose of it you could go in, plead not guilty at your arraignment
and then wait for the DA's offer and accept the violation.
After the DA's Offer, you can also just ask the judge if you can have an ACD (an adjournment
in contemplation of dismissal, which is a conditional dismissal). Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, the judge just may give it to you. But if not, the violation shouldn't really hurt you too badly.
You would likely have a better chance at an ACD or even an outright dismissal if you show up with a lawyer.